There are many amazing health benefits of Intermittent Fasting, which will encourage you to inculcate it in your daily routine for maximum results.
Intermittent Fasting: What is it?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that involves extended periods of fasting to cut in by periods of normal intake of food.
It is not a new but rather an ancient concept that has been modified according to one’s feasibility.
Some religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam also recommend fasting for religious and spiritual reasons.
Fasting has been a part of our culture and tradition for a long time and as such it has been embedded in us to be able to work without food for an extended period.
Intermittent Fasting means limited calorie intake at an interval, these intervals may vary based on the plan followed by the individual.
However, it is very beneficial for persons aiming to lose weight, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol levels.
Moreover, it also slows down aging and causes improvement in the metabolic rate.
Amazing Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
There are many health benefits of Intermittent Fasting. Some of them are:
1. Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
During fasting, the level of insulin in a person’s body decreases thus causing cells to release the stored glucose (by burning fat).
This, if done in a regular manner, will help in reducing body weight.
Furthermore, the fall in the level of insulin reduces the risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes.
Levels of human growth hormones also increase with this (about 5-fold).
This high level of hormone helps in the break down of complex molecules of fats which helps in muscle building.
Studies have shown that while fasting the blood sugar levels decreases by 3-6% and the levels of insulin by about 31%.
2.Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease:
The repair process of the cells and removal of waste which include autophagy is also initiated during fasting.
The GI tract is also resting allowing it to repair. During fasting, the cells live off on the stored fat rather than storing fat.
With time-restricted feeding, the expression of autophagy gene and protein increased, thus regulating cell growth.
Increased cell repair may also help the body to fight against ailments like Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
A study indicates that fasting limits tumor survival and slows cancer spread.
3. Helps you to Lose Weight Fast:
The main aim of persons opting is to get health benefits of Intermittent Fasting in weight loss.
Intermittent Fasting causes a person to consume fewer meals which in turn leads to intake of fewer calories.
Research suggests that Intermittent Fasting can cause weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks and also belly fat.
However, the greatest benefit is that one does not require counting calories while doing so.
4. Good for High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol:
Apart from the health benefits of Intermittent Fasting in weight loss.
Researchers have also found that Intermittent Fasting reduces triglycerides which can lead to stroke, heart attack.
Intermittent Fasting helps in reducing the blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This, in turn, helps to improve the heart rate.
This also reduces the risk of stroke in heart patients.
5. Helps your body to Fight against Inflammation:
Studies have also shown that during fasting there is a reduced level of pro-inflammatory markers in the body along with blood pressure and body fat.
6. Helps fight against Free Radicals Damage:
Oxidative reactions in the body are the reasons for the aging and development of chronic diseases.
Free radicals are produced which damages the DNA and proteins.
However, recent studies have shown that IF may enhance the body’s ability to prevent oxidative reactions.
7. Boosts Memory and Fights Against Age-Related Diseases
Recent studies on animal models have shown that IF plays a role in increasing the life span as IF causes resistance to age-related diseases.
Studies on animal models have also shown promising results indicating that IF improves concentration.
It is also believed that IF may protect one from a decline in memory with age.
However human studies in this field are limited to give a conclusive remark.
8. Good for Nervous System
Fasting also causes changes in the expression of genes that are related to longevity and protection against diseases.
IF causes an increased level of brain-related diseases which helps in the formation of new nerve cells.
Due to its simple nature it the preferred form of fasting.
It does not require any special for planning or preparation of meals in a special way for it to work.
Stages of Fasting:
1. Fed Stage:
This refers to the first 6 hours after one had a meal.
However, at this stage, the blood glucose level rise, and insulin are secreted.
This leads to the storage of excess glucose as glycogen in the liver and once limit is reached conversion of the same to fat.
2. Post-Absorptive Stage:
After the fed-stage, the level of glucose in the blood decreases leading to a decrease in insulin
The increased glucagon level helps in breaking down the stored glycogen into glucose which can be used as energy.
This stage lasts for 6-24 hours.
3. Gluconeogenic Stage:
The body uses up its glycogen stores after 24 hours of intake of food.
However, at this stage, the body starts using fat for energy.
Apart from fat the body also breaks down amino acids into glucose for use in the metabolism.
4. Ketogenic Stage
After 2-3 days post fasting the body enters the ketogenic stage (ketone bodies starts accumulating).
Very low levels of insulin signal the breakdown of fats. Fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol.
Fatty acids are used as energy by tissues while glycogen is converted into glucose for use in the brain and red blood cells.
The fatty acids cannot cross the blood-brain barrier.
However, ketone bodies can cross the barrier and provide the brain with the necessary energy.
5. Protein Conservation
Post day 4 of fasting the body the source of the body’s energy shifts entirely to being ketone bodies and fatty acids.
What to eat while fasting?
It is recommended that a well-balanced diet is taken by persons who ought to fast.
A balanced diet consists of fruits, fresh vegetables, pulses, protein sources, and milk products.
Green leafy vegetables should always be included in the diet as they are rich in fibers and make one feel full.
Drinking tea and beverages are also recommended as it will keep the body hydrated
This also reduces the urge to eat more food and keep the calorie intake at check.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting in Weight Loss?
When we ingest food, we usually take in more food than is required for the metabolism of the body.
However, this unused food is stored in the body as fat which can be used later.
The hormone is responsible for maintaining the glucose level in the body and it also store unused fat is insulin.
When we take in food the pancreatic cells release the hormone insulin.
Insulin helps in the storage of food by promoting the absorption of glucose from the blood into the liver and skeletal muscle.
However, when the body has a sufficient amount of glucose the excess amount is converted to glycogen
The fat is stored in the liver and is also exported to other parts of the body.
While fasting, we limit the intake of food due to the low level of glucose the level of insulin in the body is low.
To compensate for the low level of glucose the body uses the stored energy in the form of glycogen (about 100g).
Stored glycogen can provide enough energy to last for about 36 hours.
But after that period the body starts breaking down fats to sustain itself.
Intermittent Fasting thus leads to breaking down the body’s stored fat ultimately leading to weight loss.
There are various ways by which Intermittent Fasting may be achieved.
During Intermittent Fasting one eats a minimal amount of food or abstain from eating in totality.
Methods of Intermittent Fasting are:
- 16/8 method
- 5:2 diet
- Alternate Day fasting
- Warrior Diet
- Spontaneous meal skipping
“16/8 Diet” Method:
This is the most common method of IF practiced also known as the Leangains protocol.
The practitioners consume normal food during 8 hours window period and abstain from them for 16 hours. Hence, the name 16/8 method is given.
During the 8hr window period, one can fit 2-3 meals based on one’s eating habits.
For some skipping breakfast is the norm while others are comfortable skipping dinner.
It is the easiest method to follow as it doesn’t involve any strict diet charts and can be managed based on one’s food habits.
However, the frequency of the IF can be adjusted according to one’s preference which can range from once a week to every single day.
It is recommended that one should eat a healthy diet and avoid junk food during the window period for the IF to work.
However, zero-calorie drinks can be taken during the 16 hours fast long with water and hot beverages like coffee.
Apart from being beneficial in weight loss 16/8 of IF is also known to be useful in controlling blood sugar and increase the efficiency of the brain.
Health Benefits of “16/8 Diet Method” in Intermittent Fasting and How to follow it?
One can adjust the time table based on one’s habits of eating and sleeping. One time table is given for your reference.
A 16 hour fasting period is chosen including the time one sleeps. The remaining 8-hour window is chosen which might be from 9 am-5 pm, 10 am-6 pm or 12 pm-8 pm.
In the chosen period the person can eat whatever one likes. The time frame should be chosen based on one’s diet habits.
“5:2 Diet” Method:
It involves having a normal diet for 5 days a week and a restricted calorie intake of 500-600 calories for the remaining 2 days.
Since meals are allowed during the diet, it is technically a low-calorie diet or partial fasting.
It is quite easy to maintain this diet since there is no specific choice of food to be taken and requires low maintenance.
People make their fasting routine based on one’s preference.
Intake of healthy food is recommended during fasting and junk food must be avoided at any cost.
A study on the effects of 5:2 fasting had shown that 3 months post-fasting body weight reduced by more than 5kg, fat-mass reduced by 3.5 kg (but no loss in muscle mass),
However, this reduces blood triglycerides and reduced levels of markers of inflammation and decreases levels of leptin.
If the main motto of one to undergo IF is weight loss, one can opt for a 5:2 diet as it is the best-proven way to do so.
Health Benefits of “5:2 Diet Method” in Intermittent Fasting and How to follow it?
One can choose to restrict calories on Monday and Thursday and eat normally the other days.
Or it can be on Tuesday and Friday and eating normally on other days.
On fasting days two meal patterns are usually followed- three small meals i.e. consisting of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Or two slightly bigger meals consisting of lunch and dinner.
It is recommended that one eats nutritious food with high-fiber and high-protein.
Soups are usually preferred during fasting days as they make us feel full then the individual foods.
Foods that can be taken include vegetables, yogurt, fresh fruits, eggs, fish, rice, vegetable soups.
Beverages and drinks allowed include black coffee, black tea, and water.
Care should only be taken to eat a normal balanced diet avoiding fast foods which are the main reason for gain weight.
“Eat Stop Eat” Method:
Eat Stop Eat is another method of intermittent fasting developed and popularized by Brad Pilon in his book “Eat Stop Eat”.
He first come up with the plan during his graduate research on short-time fasting.
It involves fasting for a complete 24 hour period for 1 or 2 non-consecutive days based on one’s preference.
For the remaining 5/6 days of the week, the person can eat normally.
However, it is recommended that one keep a close watch on one’s calories and prevent over-eating.
Drinking plenty of water along with beverages with zero-calorie and keeping oneself hydrated even during the fasting days is recommended.
Eat Stop Eat causes weight loss by making the body calorie deficit.
Our body is dependent on the carbohydrates we consume which are the principal source of energy.
Once the glucose is utilized and the glycogen reserves are depleted the body switch to fat as the source of energy.
This shift of the energy source from glucose to fats is known as ketosis.
However, prolonged fasting will lead to the burning of the stored fats leading to weight loss.
Health Benefits of the “Eat Stop Eat Method” in Intermittent Fasting and How to follow it?
Following East Stop Eat is quite easy. One simply needs to fast for one or two days non-consecutively for a full 24 hour period.
During the other days, a normal diet is recommended with healthy food and drinks.
On the fasting day, one is recommended to take in calorie-free drinks.
Alternate Day Fasting:
In this method, one fast on alternate days but is free to eat anything on non-fasting days.
It involves eating for one day and fasting for the next.
On fasting days one is allowed to drink calorie-free drinks like water, coffee, and tea without sugar.
Alternate day fasting is beneficial for weight loss and lowers the risk of having heart disease and diabetes.
Another version popular among masses is fasting with an intake of 500 calories (or 20-25% of one’s energy requirements) on fasting days
And eating normally on non-fasting days.
This method is just as effective as alternate day fasting and is much easier to maintain.
Due to its simplicity, people find it easier to follow then the complicated diet charts or weight control regime with calorie restrictions.
Studies show that Alternate Day fasting help adults lose 3-8% of their body weights in 2-12 weeks and is more effective for middle-aged persons.
One important study reveals that Alternate Day fasting coupled with endurance exercise may help in reducing twice as much weight loss.
Health Benefits of “Alternate Day Fasting” in Intermittent Fasting and How to follow it?
It simply means fasting for one day and eating the next. One is allowed to take calorie drinks free to be hydrated.
If one follows the modified version than one can take vegetables, fruits, etc. but keep an eye on the calorie intake.
It is usually seen that people take one big meal during the later hours but some take 2-3 meals during the day limiting the amount of food and calories.
The Warrior Diet
The warrior diet so named as it is based on the eating habits of ancient warriors.
This diet involve eating limited food during the day and feasting at night.
The warrior diet was created by Ori Hofmeklar in 2000.
The diets involve eating meagerly during the day with a diet mainly consisting of milk products, eggs, raw fruits, and vegetables for 20 hours.
And they are allowed to binge eat for the remaining 4 hours.
However, healthy food sources are usually recommended and one should keep a count on the calorie intake while binge eating.
Health Benefits of “The Warrior Diet” in Intermittent Fasting and How to follow it?
Ori Hofmekler suggests that before starting a warrior diet one should follow a three-week plan
This is to prepare the body for utilizing fat as an energy source.
Week One- Phase 1 of The Warrior Diet in Intermittent Fasting:
This is the period when you detox your body
For the first 20 hours of the day and one should eat vegetables, milk products, eggs, raw vegetables, and fruit.
In the 4 hour overeating, period plant proteins are recommended with oil and vegetables, beans, and legumes but no wheat products.
One is allowed to drink calorie-free beverages 24-hours.
Week Two: Phase 2 of The Warrior Diet in Intermittent Fasting:
For the first 20 hours of the day, one should eat vegetables, milk products, eggs, raw vegetables, and fruit.
In the 4 hour overeating, period plant proteins are recommended with oil and vegetables and a handful of nuts.
One is allowed to drink calorie-free beverages 24-hours. However, no grains and starches are allowed.
Week Three: Phase 3 of The Warrior Diet in Intermittent Fasting:
In this period one alternates between high carbs diet and high-protein diet.
The days might be arranged as follows:
1-2 days high carbs diet followed by 1-2 days high protein diet
And then again 1-2 days of high carbs diet. This cycle is repeated.
Diet on high carb days includes eating a high amount of corn, potatoes, barley, etc.,
This diet is rich in carbohydrates and a little animal protein may be included in the diet during the four hour overeating period.
During the 20 hours of under-eating, one is allowed to eat hard-boiled eggs, fruits, and vegetables.
On high protein days, it is recommended that during the 4 hour overeating period.
In this period one should eat a high amount of animal proteins along with non-starchy vegetables, salad, and oil.
During the 20 hours of under-eating, one is allowed to eat hard-boiled eggs, fruits, milk products, and vegetables.
Dessert is allowed to be eaten during phase 3 of the diet which includes fresh fruits.
Once the phases are complete one needs to start again from phase 1 of the plan.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping:
Spontaneous meal skipping usually involves skipping meals spontaneously and at intervals when one is not hungry.
It urges us to listen to our own body and take the decision of having food based on the body’s need.
Thus, it doesn’t seem like fasting as one is required to skip a meal when one is not hungry and thus is a good method to follow.
It is recommended that one doesn’t overheat in the next meal after skipping a meal and takes a normal diet.
Moreover on should not skip two meals in a row as it may not suit one’s habit.
E.g. If a person skips lunch then he/she should have breakfast and dinner in the normal recommended way.
Health Benefits of “Spontaneous Meal Skipping” in Intermittent Fasting and How to follow it?
There is no hard-fast rule to undergo spontaneous fasting. One just skips meals spontaneously based on one’s urge to eat.
The only thing to keep in mind is not to sip two consecutive meals.
Problems faced during Intermittent Fasting:
When one opts for Intermittent Fasting one may experience episodes of hunger.
However, the most proven way to avoid it is to keep oneself busy oneself with other works.
This will make you forget about hunger. One may also take in drinks to curb the same.
With time one becomes acquainted with the same and IF becomes manageable.
But if one continues to feel ill and fatigued during the process it is best to discontinue.
Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting:
We have already read about the incredible health benefits of Intermittent Fasting in weight loss but there are some downsides as well.
1. You feel Lack of Energy and Motivation
Few studies have reported that IF causes adverse effects such as headache, constipation, lack of energy, etc.
Lack of energy and motivation to do anything is also felt low in individuals following Intermittent Fasting.
2. May Suffer from Compensatory Hunger
Some people suffer from compensatory hunger (intake of an increased level of food due to calorie restriction).
This sometimes cause them to eat more than is recommended.
Overeating by some during the periods one is allowed to eat causes one to take in more calories than is usually required.
The very aim of Intermittent Fasting to cause calorie deficit is not fulfilled when one exceeds the limit of calorie intake.
Intermittent Fasting programs do not include regime for physical activity.
People following Intermittent Fasting may experience fatigue
This causes them to change their daily routine of exercise with minimal physical activity.
3. May disrupt people’s timing of medications
Persons with regular medications find it difficult to follow Intermittent Fasting
Because some medications are to be taken after being full-food.
Intermittent Fasting disrupts their timing of the medications.
Because of this reason people with medical conditions are advised against this type of fasting as it might cause side effects.
However, people with eating disorders are also advised against it.
4. Digestion Problems and Irregular Bowel Movements:
Digestion problems along with irregular bowel movements are also reported by many practitioners
Because the intake of large volumes of food in a short period causing stress to the GI tract.
Stomach cramps, abdominal pains along with a feeling of bloating are the commonly reported symptoms.
Intermittent Fasting doesn’t inspire people to take in nutritious food as there is no strict routine that is to be followed
Hence, there should be a list of food that is to be avoided.
One can feel tired in the morning with the feeling of sickness and fatigue.
This, in turn, may hamper your morning routine and cause difficulty to concentrate on your job.
5. May experience Low Blood Sugar:
Low Blood Sugar is a common side effect of Intermittent Fasting.
Skipping meals often causes one to experience low blood sugar.
Some symptoms include blurred vision, headache, and fatigue.
Intermittent Fasting is considered safe for adults.
One should always consult with a dietitian before opting the same.
Who should avoid Intermittent Fasting:
We have read amazing health benefits of Intermittent Fasting in weight loss but this is not for everyone.
Intermittent Fasting is not recommended for teenagers, small children, persons with type 1 diabetes.
However, pregnant women, women trying to conceive, and breastfeeding mothers should also avoid Intermittent Fasting.
People who are malnourished and underweight with nutrient deficiencies should also avoid Intermittent Fasting.
Research in this field is limited and as such long term benefits or side effects of IF are not known.
So, it is often recommended to consult your dietitian and opt for Intermittent Fasting, if recommended.
Intermittent Fasting aids in weight loss and improves overall health.
It is also known to be beneficial for diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.
Also you can check our other article on foods to avoid when acid reflux.
But to be sure if it is the right one for you, one should consult the dietitian.
Keeping oneself hydrated with lots of non-calorific beverages is necessary during IF.
One with underlying diseases or falls into any of the risk groups mentioned above is advised against IF.
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